NASCAR Sprint Cup Series: Gatorade Duel 2
Topics: Gatorade Duel
February 23, 2012
DAYTONA BEACH, FLORIDA
KERRY THARP: Joining us now at the podium, winning the second Gatorade Duel, is the 17 car of Roush Fenway Racing, driven by Matt Kenseth, owned by Jack Roush, and crewed by Jimmy Fennig.
Congratulations, Jimmy and Jack.
Jimmy, talk about the 17 car, certainly what a super move there at the end of that race to overcome your teammate Greg Biffle.
JIMMY FENNIG: Yeah, I mean, it was a good move by Matt, and Jimmie Johnson kind of set Greg up. Little bit of a sitting duck there. Them guys got hooked up and he took it to Victory Lane from there. Good move. Very good move.
KERRY THARP: Jack, you're sitting on the pole. You have Matt that's going to be up near the front, Greg Biffle. All your cars are going to be right up at the front for the Daytona 500. Congratulations. Great performance today for the 17 Best Buy Ford.
JACK ROUSH: Thanks, Kerry. Painfully it's been brought to my attention this is this the first Duel we've won in 25 years. I'm certainly embarrassed about that.
We had really strong Fords today. Doug and the guys, Tom Ghent did a great job with the engines. The engines qualified well. Of course, they draft well. They do at least average in keeping water in the cooling system.
But Matt did a super job. Matt likes to hang around the front of these fields, not everybody agrees with that. But Matt likes to be hanging around the front of the field. It paid a dividend today.
He did a great job. Wouldn't have won the race unless somebody helped him. Jimmie Johnson decided he'd rather be close to Matt than get shuffled back. Whatever the reason was, the win was primarily attributable to the fact he had somebody helping him because the difference in the speed of the cars is not as great as the difference in the cars being hooked upped and not going hooked up.
Matt always does a good job. The guys worked hard all winter and Jimmy is the man.
KERRY THARP: We'll take questions, please.
Q. Jack, could you speak to the engine temperatures you saw in your cars today and any suggestions you might give to NASCAR to alleviate it.
JACK ROUSH: I hoped to have the engines that have the most tolerance for temperature in the field. Doesn't matter what the temperature. The FR‑9 engine has proven to be at least average. I've heard reports of 270 degrees. I don't know if that's real or if it was sustained. I haven't looked at the data yet. When we get back to the engineering center, we'll be able to look our data over now that we have our data acquisition up with the fuel injection.
I think that 270 degrees was probably a real number and that some people were able to hold their water at 270 and some aren't.
Q. Jack, after going through the Shootout and the Duels, has NASCAR's decision to eliminate in‑car communications had any practical effect on the racing?
JACK ROUSH: If you're not in pairs of two‑by‑two for most of the race, I think it doesn't matter. If you're able to set up a partnership, as a driver, with another driver, I think there's a great benefit to it 'cause once you have that done, you can have one spotter coordinating things and the drivers can communicate with each other when they need to.
I think you'll see in the 500‑‑ I don't think you'll see as much two‑car drafting as we saw in the previous race or two, but I think there will be some when it comes time to close the deal at the end of the race.
KERRY THARP: Joining us now is our winning driver, who won the No.17 Best Buy Ford, Matt Kenseth.
Certainly a terrific finish, quite the move you put on there at the end of the race. Talk about that performance and then also talk about your mindset as you look to try to get your second Daytona 500 victory.
MATT KENSETH: Thanks. I feel a lot better today than we did Sunday morning I guess or after Saturday night. We had a lot of speed in our car when we got out front early. I could tell we had a really fast car. I had to figure out where to put it, who to be with, how to try to get people to help you, all that.
Early on, Jimmie, I saw him on the outside, he was able to push us up to the front. We were able to stay up there for quite a while in the beginning together, then he got around me. When I saw him on the outside of the end, I decided that was my best shot for the win. I tried to get under one of the guys in front of me, still have one in front of me. Just kind of backed up to his bumper and he stayed right with me, kept shoving me all the way in there.
KERRY THARP: We'll go back to questions.
Q. Jack, did you figure you were going to be in here with Biffle or were you worried because he was in front that you weren't coming in here at all?
JACK ROUSH: To be leading the race as much as Greg did kind of sets you up to be a sitting duck. I had a sense of foreboding that he probably wouldn't be there. But I had hoped that he would.
Certainly the fact that the thing strung out a little bit gave me hope. It would have been unusual for there not to be a challenge from two cars. I'm just happy that Matt was in front of Jimmie instead of Jimmie in front of Matt.
Q. Matt, that was a great move on the swing to the inside on Biffle. Were you surprised that Biffle went up high like he did?
MATT KENSETH: Well, we were going so much faster that we were going to go by him regardless. I think that was his only hope, is to try to get up the track, try to line my front bumper up where I had to push him. The problem was, I was going too fast. Even if I wanted to slow down, which I didn't want to on the last lap, I couldn't have.
Jimmie was pushing me so hard. We were locked together. I know Jimmie can't see what's going on up there. I had no other choice. Wherever he went I was just going to go the opposite way.
Just thankful that when he did do that block, that Jimmie was able to be clear, because when I turned down to the bottom, if Jimmie couldn't have squeezed up through there in the middle, I would have lost the seal right there, we would have been history. But luckily we were able to stay together and get clear of them guys.
Q. Matt, a relatively calm race. Do you expect that to be the norm for Sunday or do you expect the nerves to get into people?
MATT KENSETH: I think you'll see a little mixture of everything. Hopefully we'll see more like we saw in the second race. It was warm out there. There was a little bit of handling that came into play. It was a lot harder to get from the back to the front than I expected. When I was able to get up to Greg to the lead there, he worked his way to the bottom. I was the only one on the top. We dropped back quite a ways. I think that was before the pit stop. We came in, Jimmy made a great call of no tires. Otherwise I don't think we would have got back to the front. It was tough to work your way all the way back to the front.
There's going to be more cars out there obviously in the 500. There will be bigger hole. The rear cars will have bigger runs and going faster and that will create more passing. I think you're going to kind of see a mixture. Hopefully we see more of what we saw today, at least from my standpoint.
Q. Matt, you've raced now in two different races. Essentially Saturday seemed to be a lot more chaotic than today. Was there anything you took away from one race or the other that will help you? You were talking about cutting through the air. Since you have raced in two different forms of racing, what have you taken away from it and how are you going to plan it on Sunday?
MATT KENSETH: I think the biggest difference from Saturday to today, there's a couple things, the track conditions are fairly different. It was cool on Saturday, it was dark. The engines ran cooler, you could push longer. It was the first race of the season, the first race with these rules. I think a lot of people were feeling different things out. I think even the guys that weren't in the race that got to watch on TV learned a lot. When you get on somebody's left rear, you're going to spin them out.
I think you learned where the big run was, where you can push people, where you can't, what information you want from your spotter. I think a lot of people watched that race, and the people that were in it that wrecked probably learned a lot it from as well. I think that probably played a little bit into today.
Q. What kind of engine temperatures did you see? Did it affect the way you were able to race?
MATT KENSETH: 210. I'm just kidding (smiling). I thought Jack was going to punch me if I said how hot it was.
I didn't watch the gauge. I watched if water was coming out. So you really watch that more than anything. Like at the end, I'm sure Jimmie's car was hot pushing me. After you take the white, the race isn't going to be restarted. It doesn't matter from a driver's perspective, you're going to get all the speed you can out of it.
Probably was warmer and lost a little more water than what I would have liked. I think it's going to be a little cooler Sunday.
The only other a little bit of concern from my standpoint, especially being in the back, if you get a little bit of trash on the grill, there's not a lot of room for error there. But it was okay.
Q. It's hard probably to rank victories, but can you put this one in perspective? Could you also expound on what happened when you pushed Greg to the front and then dropped to 13th.
MATT KENSETH: It's always really fun to win, no matter what kind of race it is. Obviously half the field, it's not a points race, so it's not like winning the Daytona 500 or Phoenix or something. But it's still a big win for us. We've never been able to win one of these races down here, Shootouts or 150s. We've been trying for a long time so it feels good to have everything go right, have everything line up and be able to win that race. It feels good. You feel a lot more confident than what you do after having a bad race like Saturday where you get wrecked.
With Greg, he got back there and I started pushing him. We got locked together real good. I was going to push him all the way to the lead. I was going to get too hot. The guy who was leading kind of pulled me off of Greg a little bit. Greg had the momentum. He just pulled to the bottom. I think he thinks we were probably going to go to the back. We needed to stay sealed up pushing each other for another 15 feet so we could have both cleared.
As soon as he got clear, he separated, pulled in line. Kind of left me by myself. I had a slow journey from second to 13th. Took the day to get back in there.
Even if he would have stayed out there, I don't know that we would have got 'em. That's your job as a driver. Got up to the lead, had a chance to get down in there and win the race. That's what you're supposed to do, take that spot.
Q. Matt, after Tony Stewart won the first qualifier, he said he liked showing strength during this race because it's important to show that you have a strong car. Do you agree with that? Do you feel you and Greg and the Fords showed a lot today that maybe you'll have people working with you Sunday?
MATT KENSETH: I agree with him, it is important. I also think you want to try to‑‑ you always want to do your best, but you want to try to do your best in this race, be loyal to a guy that's helping you, not make anybody mad, be erratic, hang somebody out too bad. Also for the people watching, I don't want to do that, I'm going to push him to that spot, he's going to leave me sitting.
Obviously, having a fast car makes my job a lot easier. I thought from working with Jimmie early in the race, helping him get up there, him helping me get up there, probably helped us there a little bit hopefully.
Q. Matt, certainly you guys will have Tony surrounded, Roush Fenway drivers will occupy three of the top four starting spots. Does that loyalty extend to your teammates when it comes down to push to shove? Will you link up and try to pull away early?
MATT KENSETH: I don't know that you're going to be able to do that. You're not going to want to do a lot of pushing early in the race, push water out of the car, get hot. At least there probably won't be for me.
Certainly I think you race all day. You just race to try to have yourself in the best position. Like always, you're going to try the best you can to take care of your teammates as good as you can. Obviously, if it's multiple choice at the end, you're going to get the same answer for yourself. Obviously you're going to go with a teammate instead of going somewhere else when it comes down to the end of the race.
I think the first 480 miles is going to be about trying to get in the best position you can, try to hold the best track position you can, hopefully find a safe spot where you can keep your car cool and be away from any trouble.
Q. Jack, after a day like today, do you have any words of advice or encouragement for Greg?
JACK ROUSH: Greg did it right today. He was just in a situation where he couldn't stop a run that was coming at him. By being out front, he kept himself out of harm's way all day. That was certainly a good strategy.
Just see what happens at the end. If things had broken a little bit differently, it could have been more of a foot race than it was between Greg and Matt. But, you know, you're going to lead this thing if you can. You're not going to fall back to fifth and sixth and take a chance on getting caught in the middle or getting shuffled. Take what you get.
Q. Matt, was the fact that Johnson went with you just coincidence? You seem to have a history of racing each other hard but racing each other with a lot of respect. Did that have anything to do with it or was it a split‑second deal?
MATT KENSETH: I mean, it's not like we made a deal before the race or anything like that.
But I think, you know, first you're going to try to do whatever you can to get the best finish for yourself. Early in the race, when we pushed each other, got me to the front, ended up passing me, got in good position, stayed there the whole time. He moved out to the outside, didn't really have a run. I was guessing that's what he wanted. If you're the first one in that row, you're going to be the first one to pass the leader in you're in front of him.
I really thought we'd stay attached and he'd push me to the front and probably pass me off of four like Kyle did Saturday. Somehow I think when Greg went up to block, we went underneath him, somewhere shortly after that, we came unattached. I'm not sure what happened to everybody without watching it. It looked like they were at least three‑wide behind me. I was way out there. Thankfully then to get the team back up and run me back down. But I don't know. Somehow we came out attached there. But that's what I expected to happen after watching Saturday's race.
Q. Jack, several other drivers in here said the water temperatures were enough to make them concerned, they wanted a bigger grill opening, more this, more that. I get the impressions you are satisfied you have that particular area covered. If Mike Helton comes to you and said, We're thinking about doing this, what are you going to suggest to him?
JACK ROUSH: The reason they went to the lower pressure cap and smaller openings is because they said they didn't want the cars to stay together. As anxious as I am to be on NASCAR's good side, I don't want to be the guy that raises my hand and says, We're going stick these guys together by increasing the pressure cap or opening the radiator up or shortening the tail, whatever they made changes to.
Whatever they do is fine. It's the same for everybody. I hope it's not a lot different than what we had today. Today was a good dry run for what we had on Sunday. I'd like for the things that we learned today, that Matt, Greg and Ricky learned today, I would hope that those things ‑ and Carl ‑ I would hope that those things come into play on Sunday and we don't have a huge change in rules.
KERRY THARP: Matt, Jimmy, Jack, congratulations, and good luck on Sunday for the Daytona 500.
|Connect with The Crittenden Automotive Library|